Manchester Clubland, and the various styles of music it promotes, shifts and moves in cycles like an amorphous living thing. New nights are created, giving irregular rise to novelty and exceptional rare talent. Interest grows and wanes, excitement and anticipation builds, disappointment arrives like a badly-timed pregnancy. Sometimes Clubland needs a break from itself; a breath of fresh air in the form of original content. Sometimes it requires nothing short of revolution. A whole new generation needed to come along and usurp the established order. Occasionally though, just by looking back we can find new ways forward: which brings me nicely onto PutYourMusicWhereYourMouthIs:
The concept of the sound-clash comes (as does a lot of our modern musical heritage) from Jamaica. Originally different dances on the island would be run by established sound-systems, each with their own selecters, DJs & toasters (hype emcees). Men like Duke Reid, Prince Buster & Sir Coxone Dodd, who went on to build legendary Studio One, all fiercely keen to outdo their competition with exclusive imports from America. Homegrown talent was also recorded & promoted via these opposing sound-systems. Bluebeat, Ska & Rocksteady musicians battled it out during long hot summers, eventually giving birth to the genre we know as reggae music.
Ska was exported with the Windrush generation to Mother England, was adopted by remnants of Mod culture, the skinheads; Reggae was also played in ‘blues’ (clubs which were usually little more than a front room with no furniture or someone’s empty cellar) attended by people from immigrant communities who were often afraid or simply not allowed to enter city-centre premises.
DJ Kool Herc took the SoundClash ethos to America: Two turntables, one mixer & a microphone; Block Parties held in empty tenement flats, or outdoor basketball courts & car-parks. Free electricity jumped from streetlamps; and Hip-Hop was born. Open mic sessions & rap battle competitions are still held for up-and-coming emcees & rappers to test themselves & each other. Both the ITF and DMC world mixing championships have been established, celebrating the best of dexterous, international turntablism now for well over two decades.
In England we had Two-Tone from Coventry, the Specials & the Selecter, ska & punk energy fused together, UB40 & the Beat from Birmingham, and rival Roots, Reggae & Dancehall sound-systems, like Saxon Sound and Congo Natty. Up & down the UK, from Highfields in Leister, St. Pauls in Bristol, Moss Side Manchester, Brixton and the annual Notting Hill Carnival in London, these seperate sound-crews all evolved within the confines of fierce competition & rivalry.
Nowadays US Hip-Hop is mainstream, Reggae has gone commercial. You can still find underground versions of both, but since Rave music’s arrival (House, Jungle, Techno, Garage, Grime, Dubstep) the era of the DJ is most definitely here to stay. White labels, exclusive VIP mixes and deleted rarities. A DJs reputation can be made or broken on the strength of his/her selections. DJs know this. That’s why you’ll often find them digging in dusty crates looking for gems; Or sniffing out promo copies & ‘dub’ exclusives from sources other than their competition; Getting exclusive versions from label-mates; or cutting ‘specials’ where an MC or singer makes a version of a well-known track but with modified lyrics, usually celebrating the prowess of their DJ. Sir David Rodigan has dozens of them: All weapons in the DJs arsenal.
More recent DJ pairings have simply been put together by promoters, back-to-back sets bringing together two mighty scene builders, or two-for-one DJ booking agency deals, but on the whole a mainly mutual affair. So Manchester welcomes back the concept of the combative SoundClash!
Held every month in the dark cellar of the Roadhouse, Mikey D.O.N (whose credentials stretch back to North-West hip-hop heroes Krispy 3 and forward to Thursday nights ‘Rap-&-Ragga Show’ on Unity Radio) invites you to join him as he invites all manner of Manchester music selectors to ‘Put Your Music Where your Mouth Is...’
Launched back in September with Mikey D.O.N himself going up against old Friends-&-Family cohort Crowhead (Atic Records), with impartial refereeing from Kwasi Asante, and diplomatically declared a draw on the night, PYMWYMI puts reputation & rivalry back on the menu! An end of October event was the first sniff of any real rivalry when my monies-on man Dom Sotigu (Blood&Fire) went against Irish Moss (Hot Milk) to compete for a very special cup (which fell apart once handled!). This was a proper reggae sound-clash, each DJ playing twenty minute sets which were then judged by the assembled audience. Each round having a winner declared until a final tune-for-tune decider round, then an overall winner emerges triumphant. Which in this case was Bobby Irish, who flung a real pair of Clarks desert boots onto the decks when airing a particular dancehall favourite, becoming the champion who relegates through to the far-off Final in June
I missed SoundClash November as I spent the whole night elsewhere (Soul:ution) but another switch in genres saw two rival Manchester promoters going head-to-head; Rich Reason (Hit-&-Run) against Ryan Hunn (Hoya:Hoya) with the man they also call Illumsphere winning the heat!
Put Your Music Where your Mouth Is returned last month to see two very-heavy-weights of the Manchester D’n’B scene go up against each other. DJ Pale (sky-blue City boy, cool graphic designer), versus DJ Prophecy (staunch die-hard Red, head of the mighty Metropolis beast), in what was billed as a ‘Clash of the Titans’. If the audience expected some heavy back-to-back drum’n’bass business they were in for a surprise, as each DJ took the opportunity to play a whole host of tracks (in genres) that wouldn’t normally fit into their more regular sets. DJ Prophecy opened with LL Cool J’s ‘Mamma Said Knock You Out’, and the bout was on! A second Manchester Derby Day! And a fair few hip-hop classics rolled out before veering into old school reggae, the man they also call ‘Uncle Wilf’ doing his very best Rodigan impersonation! Hyping up his vital selection! Educating the entire nation! Cold Red Stripe is the only Libation! Emancipation from Dehydration! (You know, that kind of thing).
Despite being heckled throughout by a lone woman chanting “Ci – Teh! Ci-Teh! Ci-Teh!” Prophecy soldiered on and finished his set off with (an inspired choice) Procul Harum’s psychedelic 1967 hit, and early-hours anthem , ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. DJ Pale responded with some timeless Hacienda tunes (Rob Base & DJ E-Z ‘It Takes Two’, Guy Called Gerald ‘Voodoo Ray’ and CeeCee Penniston ‘Finally’). I went nuts. Dunno about anyone else!
It was clear from the outset that Prophecy’s historical education tour was never going to garner as many supportive raised voices as DJ Pale’s party classics. Even Prophecy, (head honcho at event behemoth Metropolis) graciously admitted defeat saying, “If you played like that all the time, I’d have booked you more often!”
Paley let his music do the talking, and even kept a couple of MC ‘specials’ in the drawer. He hadn’t needed them! He kissed his trophy (the ONLY cup anyone in a sky-blue City shirt will raise this year I reckon!) and joins Ryan Hunn and Irish Moss in exalted company.
This months’ SoundClash Friday (Friday March 4th @ the Roadhouse!) warms-up with AManLikeSam, following in the footsteps of Da Wiz, Samrai & Aza Bombaza who have played the cellar club before the Main Event. Bout #5; Your host Mikey D.O.N. invites Mr. Scratch (Underground Roots) and Dub Smugglers’ Ed Speed to “come down to the Roadhouse with your records and your reputations and Put Your Music Where Your Mouth Is...”
MischiefMaker March 2011